Racing

"Cheltenham should not be happening today" | John Duggan at the track

Thom Malone
Thom Malone

13:04 13 Mar 2020

In an unprecedented time for global health and global sport Cheltenham has kept calm and carried on.

Off The Ball's John Duggan has been at the course all week and the unease with the scenario has grown alongside the global cancellations.

"This should not be going ahead," says the veteran reporter of 20 previous renewals of the Cheltenham Festival. Despite the advice of the British government stating that banning mass gatherings will not stop the spread of the virus.

Given the ever-changing nature of the crisis and the measures implemented in Ireland, Duggan feels that position could be revisited.

"It's the only event in the world today involving Irish fans. You have two different jurisdictions with two different approaches."

On Thursday the Horseracing Ireland announced racing would continue behind closed doors with very strict protocols for all those involved.

Good Faith

Duggan raises the point that fans made their way to Cheltenham in good faith, but the ever-changing situation and Irish government advice has made its way through into the 'bubble' at Cheltenham.

"People travelled here following advice from their health bodies, form the government, but everything obviously changed yesterday when Leo Varadkar made that statement at about 11 o'clock."

However, The Off The Ball reporter says attending Cheltenham feels "like living in a delay" with the messages about coronavirus just trickling through from texts and calls from Ireland.

"It's bizarre, it's like the twilight zone." Duggan received online abuse for his traditional "welcome to the jungle tweet" on the opening day of the Festival. John says he can see that given how things have developed, that people were upset.

Duggan now feels the decision to continue the Festival is incorrect."People feel, and I am of the view that Cheltenham should not be happening today."

He went on: "This has moved so quickly from the government on Monday saying it would be premature to cancel sporting events, there was no risk.

The situation evolved over the course of the week. Despite the UK government and their chief scientific advisor saying cancelling events is not the way to prevent the spread

John believes "that will change" given the global climate and the actions of other sporting bodies including the PGA, IRFU, GAA, UEFA, EFL, Premier League and LaLiga cancelling events.


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Cheltenham 2020 Coronavirus Gold Cup

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